Societal innovation is a new term to me, but the concept of new ways of organisation that respond to our rapidly changing world is something that has intrigued me ever since I plugged my old Amiga 500 computer into my halls of residence at Bradford University in 1993. This post represents my initial and personal thoughts on this subject, but it is something that ultimately deserves much investigation and consideration.
My career to date has been as a web developer and my research area is based around the web, creative technology and digital media. It is from this stand point that I can initially contribute to this subject from my personal perspective. Using computers to communicate, collaborate and organise has always seemed second nature to me. It is only in the last few years though I have started to question how we could potentially use these technologies in some way to counteract some of the issues society faces in the 21st century. The world of work has changed and is uncertain for many people. It is becoming increasingly difficult for University graduates to find work. The world economy is changing and there are forecasts about the BRIC countries overtaking the six largest western economies over the next few decades (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/8620178.stm).
Is it possible to use the skills, wisdom, know how, and experience of members of society to help rise to the challenges of the UK and beyond? It is possible that better organisation, sharing of ideas and communication could help. Over the last three years, I have been engaged in creating web based resources that allow such things on a small scale. The concept is to encourage sharing and collaboration among people to allow dots to be joined up. This has involved working with our local community in Salford UK to create a dialogue of local history and engage people with a creative project. It has also involved creating a sharing, game based learning programme for schools in the North-West of England. My latest project involves creating a free to use platform for students, graduates and creative people to collaborate, communicate and share their ideas. This latest project is called Creative Hive www.creativehive.org and has just over 200 members so far from various disciplines, backgrounds and institutions. The underlying principle of this project is to stimulate new opportunities for people. Sharing ideas, work, collaboration and cross disciplinary projects could be crucial in the future for allowing our society to get to grips with new challenges. Services such as Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook can also be used in a similar fashion, but Creative Hive is more specifically aimed at creative students and people to help fuse and further promote their activities to find like minded people.
Creative Hive is a microcosm experiment of how the web could be used to aid some of the challenges of our rapidly changing world. We have already seen on a micro level how undergraduates, post-graduates, staff and retired people have been able to use their creativity and the connections they form to empower them, aid their career and encourage further sharing and collaboration. Creative Hive was originally a way to organise and collaborate digitally, but it has more recently manifest itself in the physical world with a series of real life events. It is interesting to note the increased collaboration levels of a physical event, but in turn, these events are only possible because of the original digital framework.
A greater understanding, usage, innovation and harnessing of new technologies may help us get to grips with our changing society by improving communication and enhancing connections. Ultimately however, whether virtual or real, relationships and connections may be a key component for new ways of organising for an uncertain future.